PRM's Business Development Manager Gives Sound Advice to SMEs on How to be Successful

Friday, 3rd June 2011 (Source: IEA)

The Channel Clusters* Meeting with PRM took place on the morning of Tuesday, 31st May 2011 in the Maldron Hotel in Portlaoise. The PRM Business Development Manager, David Connolly, gave a presentation to the 10 companies that attended.  He also met them on a one to one basis over lunch. Godfrey Lydon of the IEA and Conor Hyde of Bullseye Food Marketing also presented at the meeting.

David Connolly stated that PRM was primarily a chilled food business (it does a small amount of frozen and ambient) and he gave a detailed presentation about this company's distribution business which was established in 1988 and has extensive coverage across both the Republic and Northern Ireland. The company is based in Lisburn, near Belfast and they have 200 staff with operations in Drogheda and Dublin. 

He showed the audience a brief film about PRM and then gave them an overview of the business.

In addition to distribution, PRM set up their own haulage business in 2008 and this is a growing part of their business. In 2007, they diversified into food manufacturing acquiring Galberts, Fresh Food Kitchen and Spring Fresh.

They have multi temperature hubs in Lisburn and north Dublin bringing product daily to and from the UK and continent. 

Their customers include all multiples, symbols, convenience and independents in Ireland and the UK. They have a logistics network that covers the 32 counties with coverage of all customers and daily deliveries into the central depots.

David presented a slide outlining the extensive list of principals’ brands they distribute (and take title to) and these include: HB (NI); Dairy Crest; Mash Direct; Rumblers; Kraft; Wexford Creamery; Cully and Sully; William Carr; Isle of Man Creamery; Cookstown; Galberts; Fresh Food Kitchen; Innocent (NI); Dubliner Irish Cheese. Bernard Matthews is also distributed but is a declining brand and so is Sunny D. 

In Northern Ireland, PRM provide a route to market to all multiples. This includes Tesco, ASDA, J Sainsbury, Musgrave, Spar, Co-Op and Lidl via CDC channel. Dunnes, NISA, Costcutter and larger independent stores get direct deliveries. The smaller accounts are serviced through van sales.
ROI, he said, is a more complicated market than NI. PRM deliver to Tesco, Dunnes, Musgraves, Superquinn, Lidl, Aldi via CDC and they use their sales reps on the ground for pull through. Regarding direct calls, PRM distributes by rigid fleet to Eurospar (50 stores with 30% of Spar’s business), Londis Plus and Buy Lo.

He said the hardest channel to manage is the convenience channel, which now only has a share of just 5.6% share but amounts to 1,500 accounts. This includes Spar, Londis, Costcutter, Gala and Applegreen. He contrasted convenience to Tesco and Dunnes where coverage of 100 stores of each of these multiples means you reach 26% and 24% of the market respectively. He told the attendees to remember this when you’re looking for listings.

PRM delivers daily to Dublin (6 days a week) whereas the rest of the country is serviced 3 days a week.  They deliver to stores in Dublin, the midlands and Limerick with their own fleet and for the rest of the country they use third party distributors to handle to convenience channel. Stock

PRM use EDI for ordering, purchasing and invoicing (all paperless). They use voice technology for order picking.

They backhaul from Cork to Belfast every week and link up with third parties to fill trucks going to Belfast. They can work with suppliers with tight shelf life products. For a product with a 10 to 16 days shelf life, they collect 3 times a week to give the customer 8 days shelf life. With 20 days shelf life they can hold a week’s stockholding.

They operate Open Book Pricing and, according to DC, are one of the few to operate this system. He said PRM are like the service person in the middle and work together with suppliers. 

Regarding promotions, he said they have over 30 suppliers and they all do promotions their own way. He said that some suppliers give PRM a per case budget to work; others give PRM a high price and a low price to work off while others give a % of turnover figure as their promotional fund. PRM work out the promotional plan based on the criteria given to them by the supplier.

PRM provide suppliers with weekly or monthly sales figures for each account by product or in whatever format suppliers want the information.

He told the attendees that they need to know their costs from the outset. He said that if you’re listed with one of the multiples, you need to factor in 2 ‘half price’ promotions and 2 ‘33% off ‘promotions in the calendar year. Otherwise they won’t do business with you. 

The final area he addressed was the Unique Selling Proposition. He said that without a usp, companies are wasting their time. He gave 2 examples of products that PRM were manufacturing where having a usp has made all the difference. In one case, they re-formulated and re-branded a product in Northern Ireland and saw a big uplift in sales.  In another case, after doing their homework over a considerable time frame, they launched a high quality cheesecake product into the Dutch supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, and this now has distribution in 700 outlets in Holland.  

He said not to think just about Ireland. PRM can get products manufactured today into the UK tomorrow or into the Dutch retailer within 48 hours. The cost of a pallet to Holland is very reasonable.

AOB: DC was asked about the following topics during the AOB session:
For small start up companies, he was asked if tele-sales was an option. DC said that the personal approach with van sales is much better than tele-sales to build relationships with customers and to get sales and space on shelf. For bigger brands that the customer needs, tele-sales is more likely to succeed.
He was asked by an attendee about regional listings versus national listings. He said it depended on the product. If he wasn’t sure it was going to succeed, he would try it with his Dublin vans first and then roll it out nationally.

He was asked about the Sales Reps Schedule. He said that PRM cover Tesco, Dunnes and Superquinn fortnightly, SV every 3 to 4 weeks and Convenience are on a 4 weekly schedule.

He was asked about the process of getting listed. He said companies should contact him first and he’ll evaluate it and come back with a business plan.

An attendee asked about their overseas strategy: DC said they would like to help Irish exporters gain access to overseas markets. He said he was surprised how simple the process was and the ease of doing business with this customer versus here.

BRC was also mentioned.  He said most will look for BRC accreditation and it’s necessary for producing private label. However, he said there’s an in house person in PRM who visits suppliers and if this person is happy the factory meets the required standard, this usually suffices with customers.

He was asked about how important the Irish origin was to the opportunity in Holland. He said the number one requirement is Quality, followed by the Price and then Regionality. The Irish element is only important in certain categories (beef, smoed salmon etc) but not for a cheesecake, although they are playing the Irish card a bit more now.


David Connolly (second from left) with the attendees at the PRM Meet the Buyer Day in the Maldron Hotel, Portlaoise on 31st May 2011.














This project was made possible through a financial contribution from the European Regional Development Fund Ireland Wales (INTERREG 4A) 2007-2013.